There are many reasons that I chose secondary teaching rather than primary, when in my final year at uni, I realised I had better plan to do something with my life. Toilet trained children was pretty high on the list of reasons, as was not having to teach important things like maths which are way out of my comfort zone. Teaching secondary also meant that (by and large) the kids weren’t going to try and hug me or hold my hand and lastly, most importantly, in a secondary setting I was never going to need to be creative with pipe cleaners, glitter and finger paints.
When I gazed down at my little baby boy in those early months, having a child that could walk, talk and enjoy activities seemed a million miles away. It hadn’t at that point occurred to me that by having my own child, I had automatically signed myself up for afternoons of hand printing, Play-doh and trying to make something which looks handmade, decorative and identifiable out of card board and crepe paper. I had been kind of hoping that by sending him to nursery three days a week, he could do all the creative (messy) stuff there and I might be off the hook. But little man doesn’t go to nursery in the holidays. So, it was with a certain amount of dread two weekends ago that I announced to my husband that we needed some supplies from The Range and piled us all in the car to queue up for the tiniest and most badly organised car park in Essex.
I marched us towards the arts and crafts section and was immediately overwhelmed. I figured there would be an aisle, maybe two, of paints and pens and I would just choose the ones suitable for 18 – 24 months. Maybe a pad of paper and some paint brushes or even some glitter if I was feeling brave. Instead, I was confronted by about the half the shop. I quickly dispatched the husband and little man off on a pointless errand, lest they see my bewilderment and start to question my competence in the creativity department (ooh, go and see if they have pigs ears for the dogs!) and tried to look like I knew what I was looking for.
It was nearly Easter, so after a couple of laps of the aisles, I settled for finger paints, brushes, paper, glitter, some polystyrene eggs you could decorate yourself, an ‘Easter bumper pack’ which had ludicrously coloured mini pom-poms, pipe cleaners and sticky back Easter shapes in it – hey, I needed at least one thing that wouldn’t go wrong – and some craft glue. I decided against the Play-doh as it was for three years up and little man still likes to check out new things with his mouth. Plus his key worker at nursery had mentioned it was ‘super easy’ to make your own which it wouldn’t matter if he nibbled a bit. She will henceforth be referred to as ‘the lady who tells lies’.
Once we got home, I found I was quite excited by all this and was rather looking forward to getting started. Little man had brought home an Easter picture to colour and decorate, so I thought we would start with that and the finger paints, may be do a little hand printing. So I strapped little man in the high chair, took the tray off and presented him with 3 little bowls of paint. It was fab – little man clearly knew what to do (thank you nursery staff) and got stuck in straightaway. Within minutes the picture was done and he moved on to some handprints. We made several pictures and looked very pleased with ourselves. I wiped him down and made us cheese on toast as kind of reward lunch. How awesome were we?!
Fast forward two weeks and Good Friday seemed like a crafting kind of day, so filled with renewed confidence, we got out the polystyrene eggs, paint, glitter and the bumper craft kit. I spread it out on the table, like a great big creative feast. Little man looked really interested in proceedings and following on from our previous success I decided to start with paint and the eggs. Here is a list of things I didn’t realise:
1. Finger paints don’t work on polystyrene.
2. 18 month olds can’t hold an egg and paint it.
3. When eggs are covered in paint and roll off the table they will inevitably land on a dog.
4. Dogs like eggs covered in paint.
5. 18 month olds scream when a dog carries off their egg. They simultaneously bang their paint covered hands on the table when this happens.
6. Finger paint flying off hands can travel a great distance.
I didn’t give up though. After retrieving the egg, wiping the table, chair, wall, child and the back of a dog, we worked together to paint 2 eggs and then covered them in glitter. They looked appallingly bad. Like a fairy had thrown up on them. So, we moved onto the craft pack, which went better. After all, how could even I mess up peeling off sticky backed shapes and helping little man to pop them on card? I then decided we were ready for the mini pom-poms, which we added to our card. No fucking clue what to do with pipe cleaners though. May Google it later. Then came my final mistake – I let little man handle the glitter. Here is some more stuff I now know:
1. Glitter looks yummy.
2. It isn’t.
3. You can removed glitter from a child’s tongue with a wipe.
4. You can’t remove it from a dog’s tongue with ANYTHING.
5. Glitter will be found everywhere now (I don’t yet know for how, long, but I’m guessing Christmas wouldn’t be an unreasonable bet).
6. Glitter can get through a t-shirt, body suit and into a nappy with ease.
Is there a moral to this story? I’m not really sure. I feel the pressure of mummy hood to continue to fight the creative battle. Perhaps I need to spend more time in my school’s art department? I’ll think about it. In the meantime, I’m off to Google what to do with pipe cleaners…